SOUTHERN Africa Students and Youth Development Association Zambia Bloc says it intends to hold a peaceful protest on February 7, 2022, as a means to register its disapproval of mining rights in the Lower Zambezi.

But Minister of Green Economy and Environment Collins Nzovu says at this time, he cannot recommend the cancellation of the license for ant open-pit mining project in the Lower Zambezi National Park because it can attract litigation.

In a letter dated February 2, 2022 and addressed to the Commissioner of Police, Association President Ibrahim Mwamba said the organisation was dismayed at the swift change of position by the new dawn government.

“The above captioned subject refers. We write to your esteemed office as custodians and administrators of the Public Order Act seeking to notify you of our intentions to hold a peaceful protest this coming weekend on Saturday February 7, 2022 as a means of registering both our disapproval and displeasure at the decision by the new dawn government to go ahead and issue mining rights on the Lower Zambezi,” he said.

“Our organization the Southern Africa Students and Youth Development Association, a students and youth affairs advocacy mouthpiece are aggrieved and profoundly dismayed at the swift change of position by the new government who during their time in opposition stood firm on disapproving any attempts by the then Patriotic Front government’s move on the same subject hence our decision to remind government to retain their position and rescind this decision with immediate effect.”

Mwamba said government needed to rescind its decision with immediate effect.

“We are well aware of the prevalence of the Coronavirus pandemic and as law abiding citizens we by this formal request commit to adhere to all the conditions your department will set henceforth. Having been involved in the organization of similar events before the Covid-19 pandemic, we do confirm that conditions for public gatherings have changed,” said Mwamba.

“However, we have tremendously reduced the number to a narrow and acceptable 1,000 participants whose admittance is by invitation in order to reasonably factor in the aspect of social distancing. Your guidance and provision of manpower to assist our civil security will be greatly appreciated. Should you have any queries please do not hesitate to contact the undersigned on the details above. Thanking you in anticipation for giving this matter your attention.”

But speaking on Hot FM, Wednesday, Nzovu said government was not departing from any promise but that there were existing agreements which needed to be respected.

“I am requesting Zambians to trust us. The creation of this Ministry is to protect the environment. We are committed 100% in ensuring that the environment in lower Zambezi is protected. So we are not departing from any of our commitments, not at all. We are just trying to make sure that we do it in the legal way, a way which ensures that the Zambian taxpayer’s money is not lost at all. Remember, we are really struggling as an economy so every ngwee counts for us. We do not want to be paying out huge legal fees,” Nzovu said.

“In the letter from honorable Kalaba, it says ‘they are currently available cost effective technologies and methods to adequately address all the identified negative impacts that may arise from the project. Wildlife management in the area will be enhanced and conserved by the proposed management scheme contained in your submissions’. So he is telling the developer that yes indeed I agree with you that all of this will be done. That was the government position then. This is the government position which I have inherited.”

Nzovu said the previous government made commitments that needed to be adhered to without breaking the rule of law.

“Remember I am the Minister now and I have to deal with this issue of commitments. How do I deal with them in a legal way minus subjecting myself to litigation? That is the big question. There are arguments that you are running away from decisions, no. These are my decisions in the office now and I need to own them. How do I do them? I am only talking about them for the public to know the challenge I am facing but to assure them that this challenge will be surmounted,” Nzovu said.

“This challenge will be taken care of in a legal way and our commitments to environmental protection will be realised. There are two things which His Excellency the President has been saying. Firstly, it is to ensure that we maintain the rule of law and other one is to ensure that there is environmental protection. These should go side by side so it means as I protect the environment I must ensure that I am within the law so both will be achieved.”

Nzovu said at this time, he would not recommend the cancellation of the mining license in the Lower Zambezi.

“I would not recommend. Let me be very honest with you. I would not recommend at this time. Remember, I have quoted the President saying he is a man who is promoting the rule of law back. He is a man who wants to ensure that the environment is protected. Those are two very big statements the President has made. I would not want him to break one of them. So one of them is to ensure that the due process is completed. Right now, there was a court order by the court of appeal of a decision letter. The whole process has not finalised. So let us wait for the process to play out,” said Nzovu.